Over the years, I have flown literally thousands of practice bomb runs. Each time, I concentrated on the tactics, techniques and procedures of delivering the bomb on time and on target. While I may have been concerned about threats, communications, navigation or a myriad number of things that may cause my run to be less than perfect, there was one thing I never worried about: the weapon.
The credibility of the United States' nuclear deterrence hangs in the balance as the country decides whether or not to extend the life of the B61 nuclear bomb. As Gen. C. Robert Kehler so eloquently put it during recent congressional testimony, "deterrence statements are backed with credible military forces — that includes reliable weapons, that includes trained people, [and] plans to use them."
The B61 weapon is more than 40 years old, and its reliability is declining. Nevertheless, there are those that think we can make do with what we have. Philip Coyle, a co-author of the recent Union of Concerned Scientists report on the nuclear enterprise, even went so far as to say that "[National Nuclear Security Administration's] plan [to refurbish the B61] violates the spirit if not the letter of the administration's pledge to not develop new nuclear weapons. It sends the wrong message to the rest of the world."